A Meeting of Educational Minds in NY

August 17, 2010
Julie Wiener interviews the two execs overseeing the merger and restructuring of New York’s two central agencies for Jewish education: the 100-year-old Board of Jewish Education of Greater New York and the relatively youthful Suffolk Association for Jewish Education Services. Robert Sherman and Deborah Friedman tell about new programs launched, new professionals brought in and a complete rethinking of everyday operations.
The transformation of the agency, which receives 52 percent of its funding from UJA-Federation of New York and works with hundreds of diverse educational institutions, from haredi yeshivas to Reform congregational schools, has gone well beyond the cosmetic.
While mergers usually mean a reduction in staff and budget, the new agency is now larger than the combined totals before the merger process began, thanks mostly to increased support from the Federation.

This year’s budget is $12 million, compared to combined budgets totaling $9.5 million five years ago. And BJENY-SAJES now has a staff of 53 full-timers and six part-timers, compared to 45 full-timers and 17 part-timers in the two agencies combined five years ago.
The four major focal points for BJENY-SAJES are: the intersection of accessibility, affordability and quality at Jewish day schools; supporting “21st century models” of congregational learning; tapping the potential of social media in Jewish education; and helping early childhood education programs more deeply engage their students’ families in Jewish communal life.
Updated: Aug. 22, 2010